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Bernie Wins New Hampshire Primary, Buttigieg a Close Second

Following the indecision and bungled caucus in Iowa, the race for Democratic nominee for President finally has a result to rally around. Senator Bernie Sanders narrowly won the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday with a tight lead over more moderate candidate former mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump,” declared Sanders last night.

The other 2020 frontrunners, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, finished third and fourth respectively. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who many previously believed would be the nominee, finished in a far fifth place, giving his campaign a tough road ahead.

Technology entrepreneur Andrew Yang who campaigned heavily on the issue of setting a Universal Basic Income dropped out of the race after securing less than three percent of the vote and no delegates. Colorado Senator Michael Bennet also ended his campaign.

In New Hampshire Primary, Bernie Sanders benefitted from a field that has divided voters

With only 26 percent of the vote, Sanders eked out the lowest winning Democratic primary vote share in New Hampshire in almost 70 years. This is especially noteworthy, as in 2016, Sanders beat Hillary Clinton with 60 percent of the vote to her 38 percent.

However, the race is strikingly different this time. The field has divided voters between two progressive candidates (Sanders and Warren) and three moderate ones (Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden). Historically, by the time candidates reach the New Hampshire primary, the field has narrowed dramatically. And while the field has been culled from its initial 28 down to its current nine, that’s still more strong candidates than voters typically encounter in New Hampshire.

Some needed momentum after Iowa

After last week’s debacle in Iowa, candidates felt robbed of a chance to head into New Hampshire with some momentum from a declared victory. A mishandled app, combined with an already complex system of counting votes, lead to prolonged period without any clear results.

Pete Buttgieg declared victory before any results were in, leading many to criticize him campaign. #MayorCheat began trending on Twitter, and reporters pointed out the financial connection between the tech company that designed the caucus app and Buttigieg’s campaign.

After a recount several days later, the results did show that Buttigieg had won with a narrow victory of 0.1 percent and one delegate. However, the momentum candidates usually gain from a victory in Iowa—historically, this is when Barack Obama’s campaign really gained traction—was lost in a packed news week that included a highly divisive and showy State of the Union speech and President Trump’s impeachment vote that resulted in an acquittal.

An emboldened President Trump, watching chaos in the first Democratic caucus and certain he was to be acquitted later that week, declared himself the winner of Iowa. Polling reflecting this claim, with Trump’s approval rating going up 0.4 percent between the beginning of last week and the end.

After New Hampshire primary, is Bernie a sure thing?

The New Hampshire primary is historically the point in the race when the front runner becomes, if not inevitable, nearly so. After New Hampshire, often the electorate sees candidates end their campaigns, throwing their endorsements behind the frontrunners. And while Tuesday’s race did see Yang and Bennet drop out, neither candidate was a clear threat to any of the five leading figures.

Sanders’ campaign is already benefitting from his strong performance in New Hampshire, as well as Iowa. He’s also the only frontrunner who has raised enough money to finance a robust advertising and get-out-the-vote effort in Nevada and South Carolina, the next two states to vote, as well as in the 15 states and territories that vote on Super Tuesday, March 3.

Strong results and a flush purse are weighing heavily in Sanders’ favor. However, he still faces daunting obstacles. Most notably, he has not yet demonstrated an ability to build a broader coalition beyond his loyal faction of progressives.

Nevada’s upcoming caucus will also test the candidate’s popularity with minority voters, of whom there were not many in the majority white Iowa and New Hampshire.

Former New York City Mayor and self-funding candidate Michael Bloomberg may also be a formidable challenge in the upcoming races. Bloomberg entered the race in November—far later than the other candidates—planning to use his vast wealth to run a different kind of campaign. He didn’t competed in the first nominating states, but he’s hoping to make a strong showing on Super Tuesday. Polls currently show Bloomberg rising nationally in some of those contests, in part because he’s been one of the only candidates who has been able to buy advertising in those states.

Elusive electability

For primary voters, their concern in 2020 is less about picking a certain nominee and more about making sure that nominee is someone the electorate can rally around. The 2016 election paralyzed democratic voters who no longer trust their own analysis and instincts. Democrats are worried about one thing: Who can beat Donald Trump.

Democrats are worried about one thing: Who can beat Donald Trump.

When viewed through that lens, choosing from the myriad of candidates becomes infinitely more complicated.

Although Sanders has run a strong campaign so far, he’s proven polarizing to moderate democrats. And there are deep doubts across much of the party about his ability to win the general election. It is unclear whether he will be able to ease those concerns in time to take control of the race during March.

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Whistleblower’s Complaint Alleges Interference by Trump in Election

In the latest of what has been a series of astonishing developments surrounding the controversy concerning President Donald Trump’s phone call to the President to the Ukraine, the whistleblower complaint has now been released and it alleges White House interference in covering up the call.

What’s the background?

In mid-September, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman subpoenaed the Acting National Intelligence Director to hand over a whistleblower report. It was filed last month and was determined to be of “urgent concern.” The document was not handed over, raising eyebrows all around.

On September 18, The Washington Post reported on the document, saying that it had something to do with an unspecified “promise” Trump had made to a foreign head of state. At this point, it was not clear what the promise was and to whom it was made. President Trump responded accordingly.

Details began to slowly trickle out. The Wall Street Journal reported that the whistleblower complaint alleged that Trump had pressured the Ukrainian President Zelensky “about eight times” to work with his personal attorney Rude Giuliani to look into matters surrounding Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who had sat on the board of a natural gas company in the Ukraine.

Compounding the situation was the matter of millions of dollars of aid that the U.S. had failed to release to the Ukraine, leading some to suggest this was a true mafia-style shakedown of one world leader by another.

Following the breaking news, Trump went on record to deny that he had ever tried to bribe another country to interfere in a national election while at the same time unintentionally confirmed some aspects of the story—such as a call had taken place to the President of the Ukraine and Biden’s son had been discussed.

By Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that impeachment inquiries would begin, describing the President’s actions as a “betrayal of his oath of office.” On Wednesday, a transcript of the call had been released. And on Thursday, the whistleblower complaint was de-classified and published.

The whistleblower complaint

The whistleblower complaint, which as you may recall from last year—we mean last week—had been withheld even in light of a subpoena. It had also been withheld from Congress. Its release now is the latest in a series of incriminating revelations for the Trump administration.

The complaint alleges that “senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced as is customary by the White House Situation Room.”

“This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired int he call,” reads the complaint, continuing later to say: “…there was already a discussion ongoing with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.”

Acting National Intelligence Director Jospeh Maguire, the same one who last week did not hand over the subpoenaed whistleblower report, called the complaint “unique and unprecedented” in an appearance before Congress on Thursday. He also said the whistleblower “acted in good faith.”

What happens now?

What happens next is truly anyone’s guess. To borrow from Maguire, the situation is “unprecedented.”

There are strikingly few cases of impeachment proceedings being launched in American history—just three, in fact: Andrew Johnson in 1868, Richard Nixon in 1973 and Bill Clinton in 1998. None of these events resulted in removal from office due to the impeachment. Nixon resigned before a vote could take place, and Johnson and Clinton were acquitted from all charges following a Senate trial and allowed to remain in office

The impeachment proceedings will be a long and drawn out event, likely contributing to further polarization in what was shaping up to be an extremely polarizing year anyway.

To begin with, a House committee, usually the Judiciary Committee or its subcommittee, will conduct an investigation to see if a federal official’s conduct warrants impeachment. According to the Constitution, impeachable offenses include, “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” How exactly to interpret that has been a source of vigorous debate throughout American history.

After the inquiries, the House Judiciary Committee will write up the articles of impeachment and then vote on whether to refer them to the House of Representatives. If approved, the articles will advance to the House floor where a simple majority of voting lawmakers if required to approve them.

Following a vote in the House, a trial in the Senate will take place where senators become jurors and the chief justice of the US Supreme Court presides. A supermajority, that is two-thirds of the vote, is required to remove a President from office. Control of the Senate is currently in the hands of the Republican Party, 53-45, so a vote removing Trump from office looks unlikely at this stage.

However, impeachment proceedings will be long, and there’s no telling what may happen by the end of them. Nixon’s impeachment proceedings lasted 184 days; for Clinton it was 127 days.

And just a reminder…

In the background, the 2020 election carries on. Nineteen democrats are still running for President, clamoring for attention and support as media coverage becomes increasingly crowded with more and more pressing issues. The first primary is on February 3, just 130 days from now.

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